recipe: flash-in-the-pan chilaquiles

By Monday, September 21, 2009 , , ,

I often reminisce about one of my favorite restaurants from our Milwaukee days, Taqueria Azteca. Before it expanded threefold and lost some of its deliciousness, it was this charming, albeit tiny, tiny restaurant with brightly printed oilcloth tablecloths, little painted chairs hanging from the walls and Mexican wedding flags draped from the ceiling. My entire family was obsessed with this place; with the chalkboard daily specials oohed and aahed over, especially any of chef-owner Frank Sanchez's molés (I could really go for some puerco en pasilla right about now!).

Anyway, Frank's chilaquiles were comfort in a bowl. This classic dish comprised of stale tortillas fried to "revive" them, green or red salsa, eggs (scrambled or fried) and cheese is a Mexican breakfast staple. Whenever they were on the special board I would get them. They varied in ingredients, sometimes with shredded chicken, other times with seasonal vegetables, but they always included a fragrant salsa, queso fresco, crema Mexicana, avocado and copious amounts of cilantro. Yum.

Pickle is in love with any kind of red sauce, be it Mario Batali's classic or my fresh-tomato jam I make for grilled cheese sandwiches, so I thought he may like a toned-down version of chilaquiles.

Now I wanted to make it somewhat healthful and less sodium packed, so I started with spelt tortillas that I did not fry ... I know, I am already straying from the original. And since I was pressed for time after work, I used ancho chile powder (Penzy's carries it) instead of toasting, soaking and pureeing dried ancho chiles. Another cheat, but time is of the essence these days.

I also wanted to get some fresh vegetables in the sauce, so onion, grated zucchini and diced tomatoes were sautéed before the ancho chile powder and a little cumin were added to fragrance the sauce. I used Muir Glen tomato puree for the sauce base, plus a little tap water to thin it. I didn't have crema Mexicana (I wish!) or crème fraîche, but I did have some heavy cream which was added to the whisked egg. I topped it with aged Cedar Grove cheddar, cilantro and voila! Pickle didn't let me down; he scarfed it right up and "signed" for more. Hope you all do the same.

Recipe: Flash-in-the-pan Chilaquiles
Serves 4 hungry bambinos

You can make this carnivorous with the addition of some shredded chicken. Just add it when you stir the tortillas into the sauce.

1 tablespoon olive oil
Two spelt tortillas cut into 1-inch pieces – corn or white flour ones would work as well
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 medium zucchini, grated
6 Juliette tomatoes, diced
1/2 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
6 oz. tomato puree
4 oz. water
1 extra-large egg
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup minced cilantro
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes, add zucchini and tomatoes and sauté until softened, about 1 minute. Add chile powder and cumin and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato purée and water and bring to a hard simmer. Stir in the tortillas and cook until they begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a bowl with the heavy cream and season with a pinch of salt and some pepper. When the tortillas have softened, stir in the egg mixture and cook until the egg starts to scramble.

Add the cheese and cilantro and stir to incorporate.

Happy eating, s-

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